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Newtown Starbucks, Ability Beyond Disability Team up

Starbucks "partners" volunteer their time as part of a greater Danbury area service project.

(Submitted by Lisa Linsley, Community Outreach Coordinator, Ability Beyond Disability)

It was 96 degrees in Bethel with a heat index of 110 on Friday, July 22. But the heat, however, didn’t stop Starbucks employees from the greater Danbury area from completing a service project to benefit Ability Beyond Disability.

Ten Starbucks employees, or partners — as Starbucks calls their staff — removed brush and pricker bushes around the front yard of an Ability Beyond Disability group home in Bethel where six individuals with disabilities reside.

Volunteers worked alongside the Ability Beyond Disability's operations department to dissemble the brush and remove unwanted shrubbery from the home. The home contains a front yard with a large patch of pricker bushes and excess branches, near the driveway and curb.

Sarah Pullen, residential coordinator of the group home said the excess brush makes visibility difficult when backing out of the driveway. Adam Smith of the operations department also said clearing the brush will make the home uniform to the rest of the neighborhood.

This was the second time that partners from Starbucks working in the greater Danbury area volunteered at this Ability Beyond Disability group home. In April, Starbucks completed a global “Month of Service” which benefited 252,000 people.

According to the Starbucks’ Community Service website, more than 1,400 community service projects and more than 156,000 hours of service were completed in just 30 days, which is the equivalent to 76 people working full-time for a year.

The greater Danbury area Starbucks partners teamed up with Marty Hartmann of Northern Lights Landscaping as part of PLANET’s (Professional Landcare Network) Day of Service. Starbucks was led by Northern Lights in planting pine trees and flowers and removing pricker bushes and brush.

“We had to figure out what organization in our community has big needs," Starbucks of Newtown Store Manager and greater Danbury area Community Ambassador Peter Johnson said. "We heard about Ability Beyond Disability and thought it would be a great organization to benefit. Our goal is to help the environment and people, so it was a good match, plus we mostly serve 501{c} (3) nonprofits because they are typically the most in need.”

Ability Beyond Disability received a $1,000 grant from Starbucks after the April volunteer effort to offset costs of materials.

All Starbucks partners, globally, take part in community service projects throughout the year, in addition to April’s Month of Service project. Each Starbucks location has an appointed community ambassador with a team of 10 partners and a regional community ambassador, to initiate and seek involvement in the community.

Community involvement can include participating in walks for various causes, helping schools, youth organizations, or nonprofits at events, or completing yard work for an underprivileged area or population.

“There are no limits, we are very open,” Johnson said, adding the volunteer opportunities are mostly developed via word-of-mouth between partner and customer. “Most customers come into Starbucks not just for coffee but for personal interaction.”

Partners who are involved in the community ambassador team are outgoing individuals who network with customers to discover community needs, according to Johnson.

“Partners will find out from customers what organizations they are involved in, where they work, and how we might be able to help them,” he said.

Starbucks’ goal is to have completed 1,000,000 community service hours by 2015.

Ability Beyond Disability thanks Starbucks for supporting our neighborhood. 

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